a The Transit Lounge: August 2010

Back in the Day: I had a quarter life crisis, headed to Osaka, Japan for the unknown–only to discover that a passport plane ride are not necessarily a ticket to escape. Some Years Later: Settled back in Oz, the man of my dreams ended up in Tokyo for work–which is how a passport and plane ride showed me home is where the heart is. And Now: Well as luck would have it, we are about to embark on Japan Mark 3, with a baby in tow and another on the way...

Friday, August 27

Sumo Takes On Apple

One thing I love to seek out in Japan is great examples of the ancient world or culture co-existing and embracing the modern life of today. And here is another awesome instance involving sumo wrestling and Apple iPads.

The Japan Sumo Association is dishing out about 60 ipads amongst the 51 training stables and top officials to boost and improve communication - the iPad might be a little more suited to those fat-fingered athletes than the iPhone and its miniature keypad.

In true Japanese fashion, until now, the majority of communication within the sport was done via telephone and fax (I swear Japan is the only place in the world that still regularly sends facsimiles - which is one reason I never got my JLPT confirmation forms last year!!).

Association chief Hanaregoma said that the iPad seemed rather simple to use and that sending emails was very easy too.

I can just imagine the iPads being sent out. And just sitting there gathering dust while the fax is still used. It takes a long time for change to take hold in level of Japanese life...

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Thursday, August 26

So Hot Right Now

My gorgeous friend Christian appears in this video - he is the good-looking foreigner in the first scene, telling the girl he has booked her flight to the Philippines.

So cute! PS Christian is my go-to guy when I have questions about health, fitness, veganism....he knows his stuff.

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Wednesday, August 25

A Squid, A Hacker and Japan

I had completely forgotten about this post - it's been sitting in my drafts for a while now. The basic gist of the story is that back in 2008, a computer virus, Harada, spread across Japan by an image from a popular anime series called Clannad. With the love Japanese have for anime, you can understand why the virus became widespread in a short amount of time. The person responsible was Masato Nakatsuji, a 24-year old nerd/research assistant.

The main issue at the time was not just because of the damaged the virus inflicted, but mainly due to Japan not having any laws to convict him. And Japan being Japan and not able to make any decisions, it took several months for authorities to convict Nakatsuji on copyright infringement for using the Clannad anime image. He got a three-year suspended sentence.

Fast forward to present day and a 27-year old Nakatsuji is at it again. And he has gotten around the harsh Japanese copyright infringement laws by drawing his own images to represent his virus - he has taken a liking to squid, sea urchins and octopus. This time the virus works by having his drawings replace important files which can't be recovered. The longer it's active, the more files it replaces - and transfers to a server run by Nakatsuji. So far around, 50,000 PCs have been infected.

When asked why he did it, Nakatsuji responded that he wanted to see how far his programming skills had developed. Ok, fair enough....but they've obviously not progressed enough for him to cover his own tracks.

Just like the Japanese laws have not progressed their laws in any way, shape or form since Nakatsuji's 2004 attack to include cyber space. This time, they're trying to charge him with destruction of property.

They always say that the law catches up to technology. But they have never been to Japan.

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Monday, August 23

Mind Matters

Last month, Japan’s Health Ministry reported that
Japanese women had the longest life expectancy in the world for the 25th year in a row, with the average life span being 86.44 years in 2009. While much has been made of this fact, perhaps more attention should be focused on why the gap between the life expectancy of Japanese women and that of Japanese men is increasing. Interestingly enough, this gap widened last year by 0.09 percent to 6.85 years. While Japanese men have the fourth highest life expectancy in the world at 79.59 years, high suicide rates amongst the country’s young men are impacting it significantly.

According to the National Police Agency, 32,845 people committed suicide last year, with over 70 percent of them being men. This translates into one suicide every 16 minutes, leaving Japan with one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Police say that men carry more stress, and the state of the country’s economy, along with big job losses that followed the global financial crisis are mostly to blame. However, underlying mental health issues that often act as the catalyst to suicide are largely ignored both statistically and on a more personal level by family, due to the shame associated with them—even though a 2008 study by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor found that 24 percent of Japanese suffer from mental health problems.

Read more at Weekender Japan.

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Thursday, August 19

Down But Not Out

My second blog post is up for the Noosa Triathlon. I am getting there, slowly but surely. The training isn't hard on its own per se, it's just that there is a lot of it to do!

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We Scream for Ice Cream

Currently working hard at Tokyo's Summerland is Yaskawa-kun - a robot vending machine that serves ice cream.

This is ALMOST as good as the robotic vending machine in Umeda that gives out beers. Cliffy would remember that one.

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Tuesday, August 17

The Bad Apple in the Basket

As reported on Geek.com, a burning iPod managed to bring a train on the Denentoshi Line to a grinding halt during peak hour on Monday.

Traditionally punctual to the second, a speedy train was brought to a standstill during the rush hour in Tokyo so officials could investigate a “strong burning smell,” Reuters reported Monday and added that Apple’s iPodwas to blame for the incident.

A spokesman with Tokyu Corp. told the news gathering organization that one of the passengers on Tokyo’s Denentoshi line was listening to an iPod when it “burst apart,” causing a strong burning smell to spread throughout the train.

Apple Japan wouldn’t comment on the report. It’s the latest in a string of incidents in Japan that involve Apple’s music player. The government in Tokyo forced the company to replace faulty iPod nanos following the media pressure and reports of minor burns in at least sixty cases. Blaming the problem on overheating batteries sourced from an unknown supplier, Apple has issued a battery replacement program for the iPod nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006.

In any other part of the world, there would be a product recall. But, thats Japan!

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Thursday, August 12

Japanese Butt Out

The below is really interesting, considering the Japanese Government does not officially recognise that smoking is harmful to health - which is really handy in preventing health-related litigation against tobacco companies, employers, and so forth!

TOKYO (Dow Jones)--The percentage of smokers in Japan has fallen for the 15th straight year and set a new record low, the results of a nationwide survey released Wednesday by Japan Tobacco Inc. (2914.TO) showed.

In the annual survey, conducted in May by the world's third-largest tobacco producer by volume, 23.9% of respondents said they considered themselves to be smokers. The result is lower than last year's figure of 24.9%, and marks the lowest level since the company, known as JT, started compiling such data in 1965.

Japan has long been considered a smokers' haven, with smoking rates once reaching as high as 49.4% in 1966. But the number of smokers has since declined gradually, due in part to an aging population, increased health consciousness and more stringent smoking regulations.

Faced with a shrinking domestic market, JT is trying to capture a greater share of growing overseas markets such as Russia and the Middle East. In 2007, the Japanese firm spent GBP7.5 billion to acquire U.K. tobacco maker Gallaher Group PLC. JT is also seeking to diversify its sources of revenue to food and pharmaceuticals.

This year's survey showed that the smoking rate among Japanese men declined to 36.6% from 38.9% in the previous year, while the rate among women slightly increased 12.1% from 11.9%.

The JT questionnaire was mailed to 32,000 adult men and women, of which 20,631, or 64%, responded.

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Monday, August 9

Melty Moments

Who doesn't love a melty kiss?

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Thursday, August 5

Tri and Try Again

Click on the screen grab to read an enlarged version - I will be doing a few more blog posts for the Noosa Triathlon site in the lead up to the event.

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Japan's Longevity Dented By Fraudulent...Old People

Yes, Japan's record for human longevity is under threat as reported by the National Post today. It was recently discovered that two of the country's oldest people - at 111 and 113 years of age - may have in fact died around 30 years ago.

In the first case, Japanese officials decided to go to the home of Sogen Kato - Tokyo's oldest living person - to personally congratulate him on his upcoming 111th birthday. However, they became suspicious when his family refused them entry into the apartment. Turns out Kato was actually in there, lying in his bed in his Pyjamas - mummified. He had died 30 years earlier but the family didn't report it so they could continue collecting his pension.

When it came to Tokyo's oldest living woman, Fusa Furuya, who was about to turn 113, officials fronted up to her daughter's house, also to wish her a happy birthday. The daughter said she hadn't seen her mum since the mid-80s and thought she may have lived with her brother. So they went to the brother's house, only it had been demolished some years earlier to make way for a freeway. Although the daughter had suspected her mum had passed years earlier, she had continued to pay her health insurance just in case.

In light of these two scenarios, city officials across Japan are now in the process of investigating their centenarians.


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Wednesday, August 4

A Photo Finish

In Japan, the camera comes out, the two-finger peace sign goes up and everyone says "Hai cheezu!" And then the camera goes...

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Tuesday, August 3

Hammer Time

You can't touch this - well at least not until you have taken 25 minutes out of your day to unwrap it.

This hammer was wrapped in enough paper to have taken out an entire Amazonian ecosystem.

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Sunday, August 1

Bledisloe Blues

However, my mind wasn't really on the game. I was just laughing about how different this was to the Bledisloe match held last October at Tokyo's National Stadium. The contrast between the two venues as well as the JRU and the ARU couldn't have been more stark.

While National Stadium holds just over 57,000 people with Etihad at about 54,000, that's where the similarities end. The JRU and National Stadium were clearly not prepared for a predominantly gaijin (foreign) crowd, made up mostly of Kiwis and Aussies, who like to eat - and drink.

In short, the stadium ran out of beer at half time and all other alcohol not long after. Food was also very scarce. What compounded the problem was the Japanese way of employing their honesty system when ordering drinks (Lesson No 1: Foreigners are not Japanese and when there is a chance to get free booze, they will exploit the system until it runs dry - literally). You paid for your order at one end of a counter, and then moved to the other end to collect your order - there was no communication between Japanese staff, so you simply told them what you paid for. Except, the international crowd very quickly caught onto this, and started paying for 2 beers and collecting - no joke - between 30 or 40 (Lesson No. 2: No limitless booze orders at sporting events involving large quantities of foreigners). Japanese staff were scrambling for boxes to put these orders in. I bet when the half time whistle blew, the Japanese Powers That Be wondered why they had run out of all forms of liquid but only had ¥2,000 in the til.

Also, for a land that runs on convenience machines, there was not a single one to be found inside the stadium grounds. This meant there was no water available anywhere - they didn't think to sell it through the bar either (Lesson No. 3: Always have a supply of water for the thirsty, drunk foreigners).

And in order to run things smoothly, the Japanese have to let go of being so Japanese (Lesson No. 4: Think outside the square and think about how you can whittle down the lines faster!). As usual, each Japanese person had their job and did not do anything outside it. So even though the queues for drinks and food were massive, the person who took the money only took the money. And even though there was no glass in sight anywhere, the Japanese insisted on pouring all beer and chu hi cans into plastic cups - although coke cans were handed out as they were. So one person asked you how many drinks you ordered. They then told the person who poured drinks into plastics cups. This person would then hand the poured drinks to another person whose sole purpose was to give them to another person who finally handed them back to you over the counter.

It was a long night. Really, if you wanted to watch any rugby, you had to forego drinks. And if you were thirsty, you had to forego the rugby.

JRU, you have a lot to learn before staging the RWC in 2019!!

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